Saints Row is an urban sandbox game in the proud (?) tradition of Grand Theft Auto and True Crime. It's the first game of its kind that's been announced for the Xbox 360; it features a wide assortment of exploration options; and you can fully customize your gangbanger as you set out to earn respect and unify the city's gangs under your rule.
Still, it always comes back to the rocket launchers. I've seen this game demoed twice now, and the demo always comes down to a burglary gone wrong, where our "hero" winds up having to fight off an attack by both rival gangs and the local police. Clearly, anti-tank weaponry is called for, and it is used.
You begin Saints Row as a new member of the Saints, one of the gangs in the fictional city of Stillwater. You can configure your character's name, appearance, and clothing however you want (with more clothes available as downloadable content), and then move out into the world to seek your fortune.
To rise to a position of power and take control of the city, you'll need to earn respect by engaging in one of thirteen activities. Shooting rival gangbangers or committing crimes like insurance fraud can increase that score, but obviously, it can also get you into a lot of trouble. Feuding with other gangs means that once you leave the Saints' territory, you've got a pretty good chance of a carload of goofballs with machine pistols showing up to harsh your mellow. As you gain respect, however, you'll also increase the territory that the Saints occupy.
At the same time, as your respect level rises, you can recruit other members of the Saints to back you up on a mission. Just give them a phone call, and your subordinates will show up moments later with weapons in hand, ready to shoot whoever you need shot. You'll be able to fight it out in the streets with weapons like Uzis, the aforementioned rocket launcher, pistols, and shotguns.
And yes, you do hold the pistols sideways.
You can also explore Stillwater if you want, to find hidden CDs or graffiti tag spots. In keeping with the sandbox-game genre, you've got an enormous city to search, covering a three-mile by three-mile grid divided up into various districts, like Chinatown and the barrio.
In between missions, which are scattered throughout Stillwater, you can occupy yourself by entering drag races, carjackings, mugging random bystanders, and breaking into buildings throughout the city. Saints Row will ship with over a hundred songs on its soundtrack, including some exclusives, which you can listen to on thirteen different radio stations as you cruise around the city.
In addition, Saints Row will feature six-on-six online multiplayer, allowing you to enter driving competitions and other mini-games with your friends.
It's my understanding that this game is actually going to ship with a personal insult to Jack Thompson on the cover. Saints Row is coming out courtesy of Volition, the same developers who brought us The Punisher and Descent: Freespace, which means it's got a pretty good action-gaming pedigree. If you like the random chaos of good sandbox gaming, Saints Row may be one of the launch titles to watch for the Xbox 360.
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